One explanation for these numbers is that there are not enough women to fund; if there are fewer girls than boys in STEM classes and fewer female engineers at startups, fewer women than men will be in boardrooms pitching to investors.
But leading voices in the African tech community now see this argument, while logical, as more of a cop-out than a harmless expression of reality. Change, they say, can happen by enforcing a top-down strategy of influence.
With the pandemic reducing the need for physical contact, pitch decks should be judged on the merit of the ideas, not the appearance of the person making a Powerpoint presentation.
In any case, women have taken up the challenge of inverting the funding pipeline pyramid from the top.
Alitheia IDF, a collaboration of two female-owned VC firms, reached its second close at $75 million in 2020 to invest in women-led African enterprises. Janngo Capital, led by Senegalese entrepreneur Fatoumata Ba, raised €15 million ($16.5 million) towards a target €60 million (US$65 million) fund to invest in women-led businesses and/or those that directly benefit women.
Female-focused angel funds are joining the fray too.
Last week, Odunayo Eweniyi of Piggyvest and Eloho Omame of Endeavor Nigeria floated FirstCheck to issue “ridiculously early” $25,000 checks to female entrepreneurs. Few days later, Future Africa founder Iyin Aboyeji announced their intention to focus $1 million to fund female startups.
FirstCheck plans to consider founders at the ideation stage of their entrepreneurial journey. After the first check, they help them close a pre-seed round in 12 months. This might be the way to consciously grow the funding pool for women in tech.
[ Read our in-depth report on the state of Nigerian Women in Tech ]
Where local and international venture capital firms appear biased towards more established founders or men (due to pattern matching), female tech founders can take up the mantle as angel groups to jumpstart the process of having more women involved.
Ultimately, this effort is predicated on a simple observation: African women have the desire and capacity to build solutions that create value particular to women’s needs – like Mumspring, and the BabyBliss Group – and those that serve the world.
Ethiopia-born entrepreneur Sara Menker founded Gro Intelligence to solve global food problems. Temi Giwa-Tubson’s LifeBank is a gender-neutral lifesaving company for all Nigerians. Eweniyi’s Piggyvest reported that it paid out ₦95 billion (~$250 million) to its users in 2020.
If these African women can, millions more can. All that remains is for more first checks to be signed.